Critics say COVID-19 pandemic shows state should repeal ‘Certificate of Need’ law

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Critics of South Carolina’s Certificate of Need laws say South Carolina should repeal it’s regulations. Others said the law just needs to be reformed.

Candace Carroll is the Interim State President for Americans For Prosperity-South Carolina. The organization supports legislation at the South Carolina State House that would repeal CON laws.

‘Certificate of Need’ regulations were put into place by the federal government in the 1970s. According to DHEC, the purpose of CON laws is to promote cost containment, prevent unnecessary duplication of heath care facilities and services.

Carroll said the system is outdated, “The federal government rolled that back 30 years ago. There are 15 states that have rolled theirs back. Unfortunately SC is not one of those.”

When a health care provider in South Carolina wants to add beds, build a new facility or purchase expensive medical equipment, they need to go state health officials for approval.

Competitors can appeal these requests, slowing down the process. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Henry McMaster suspended some of these requirements for services related to the pandemic, like adding hospital beds.

Carroll said that decision saved lives. “For hospitals to be able to increase that capacity rapidly without having to go through this archaic system of getting a permission slip from the government and competitors allowed them to care for more patients across the state,” she said.

She said in the long term a repeal of the law could have a positive impact on health in the state.

The South Carolina Hospital Association said they do not support a full repeal of CON laws in South Carolina. They are worried about impacts that could have on indigent care in rural areas of the state.

General Counsel and Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs Edward Bender said the association would prefer to see ‘Certificate of Need’ law reformed in the state.

Bender said, “There are things that can be improved. Increasing price thresholds to purchase equipment or add a capital expenditure like an operating room.”

The state hospital association said they would also like to see the appeals process sped up.

A spokesperson for Governor McMaster said they don’t have a specific timeline for when the suspension may be lifted but their office is in communication with state agencies and other stakeholders.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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